The PGA Tour season is quickly heating up. We just saw the finish of the biggest tournament of the year thus far in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. Now, we head to the 2014 Waste Management Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale with another excellent field.
The field of 132 will get a shot at the easiest par 71 on TOUR from the 2013 season. Phil Mickelson went wire-to-wire after a 59 1/2 in the first round as his putt on the 18th green for a 59 lipped out nastily. The defending champ matched a tournament record with a 28-under, 256 showing.
Mickelson led the field in greens in regulation, proximity to the hole, and average distance of putts made. Lefty only missed one of 56 tries from inside seven feet that week. His 2.44 average on par 3s that included nine birdies and seven pars was the lowest of any tournament in the last five years.
While players were only able to hit 61.53 percent of fairways in 2013, the misses weren’t penal as they managed to connect on 71.23 percent of greens-in-regulation. That was the highest mark at TPC Scottsdale in the past 10 years. Now, they have shortened two par 4s a combined 64 yards to set the total at 7,152 yards on the scorecard.
It has been particularly dry in this part of Arizona over the last couple of months. I look for the conditions to be much more difficult in 2014 because of it. The greens will be harder and faster, which is going to be tough for these players considering the putting surfaces are already tricky as it is.
Each week, I go through and offer my Pick 5 for the current PGA Tour tournament. I list my top four contenders as well as a long shot pick. This tournament has notoriously been won by a good ball striker, and one who is long off the tee. Tour rookies have not had much success here in the past, either.
Top 4 Contenders
Keegan Bradley (+2250) – His T16 at Torrey Pines extended his top 20 streak to seven consecutive tournaments. Bradley is bound to get over the hump and win one, especially after finishing in the top 25 in both of his previous starts at TPC Scottsdale.
Ryan Moore (+2750) – With top 25s in five of his last six starts, Moore comes in playing nearly as well as anyone. He finished solo 10th in his last start at Kapalua, so he comes in rested. Moore has survived each of his last five cuts at TPC Scottsdale, including three top 15s.
Bill Haas (+2800) – A terrible opening round ruined his chances at Torrey Pines last week. However, I look for this West Coast specialist to bounce back in a big way at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. The five-time PGA Tour winner has finished 9th (2008), 29th (2011), 19th (2012) and 6th (2013) in four recent trips to TPC Scottsdale.
Brandt Snedeker (+3200) – Rarely will you ever get a player of Snedeker’s caliber at this kind of price. I’ll gladly take my chances on this former FedEx Cup champ. That’s especially the case considering he has three top 10 finishes in three of his last six starts here, including a runner-up showing to Phil Mickelson last year.
Long Shot Pick
Brendan Steele (+6000) – Pretty excellent odds here for a player like Steele who clearly loves TPC Scottsdale. After finishing 5th in the 2012 edition, he followed it up with a 6th-place showing in 2013. There is a very good chance that Steele will be in the running on Sunday once again in 2014.